Which Solar Panel Direction Will Maximise Your Self Consumption
The best panel direction to maximise self consumption of solar electricity will depend upon a households electricity usage patterns. Panel directions and the type of households various orientations generally best suit are given below:
North Orientation: Panels that face north will produce the most electricity overall. North facing solar panels are often the best choice for people who are at home during the day. Not only because they are there to use electricity when it is produced, but also because it is easy for them to shift demand by using washing machines, clothes dryers, pool filters and other devices in the middle of the day. Because north facing solar panels produce the most electricity overall, they will have the greatest environmental benefit.
North-West Orientation: Solar panels that face north-west will produce around 5% less electricity overall than north facing panels. Their electricity production through the day will be between that of north and facing panels and that of west facing panels. They produce slightly more electricity during the afternoon and slightly less in the morning.
North-east Orientation: Panels facing north-east provide will produce around 5% less electricity than north facing solar panels and their production through the day will be between that of north facing modules and east facing ones.
An east/west split can suit both people who are home through the day and those who are at home in the morning and the afternoon.
What Direction Should My Solar Panels Face For Net Metering
Even if you want to optimize your solar array system for net metering, your panels should still face south. Some believe that west-facing panels will give the best rates because energy demand is higher during the evening. But if you have a 1:1 net metering ratio, then it doesnt matter what time of day that you produce electricity what matters is that you produce it efficiently. Ideally, you want to optimize the amount of overall power you produce to get the maximum benefit from your utility company. As a matter of fact, your solar panels generate the most power during midday, which is when the demand for electricity is lower. That means youre less likely to use the power you generate during your peak production hours, giving you more surplus electricity and maximizing your return.
Pick The Right Location And Solar Panel Direction
If you are looking to achieve cost savings by installing your own solar power system, it is highly recommended that you put some time aside and carefully analyze and determine the right location for your solar panels. The optimum place to install solar panels usually depends on the position, inclination and its orientation towards the sun.
Solar panel direction during Summer and Winter
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East And West Directions
By installing some solar panels facing east and remaining to the west, the total energy production decreases around 15% than if all modules were facing to the south.
This configuration is known as an east/west split, has the advantage of generating a more consistent output of power during the day, which can assist to improve personal consumption. The systems energy output will be smoother as the roof steepens.
In most cases, an east/west split can have a different number of modules pointing in either direction.
As a result, if a family needs more power in the afternoon, more solar panels facing west can be placed. An east/west split can accommodate those who are at home all day as well as those who are at home in the morning and afternoon.
Why Should Your Panels Face South
If youre living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun will always be in the southern part of the sky as the earth orbits the sun. Because of that placement, solar panels are most likely to capture the maximum amount of sunlight if they are facing south. However, if a southern direction is not an option, eastern- and western-facing panels can also capitalize on the suns rays. It just wont be as optimal as those facing south.
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What Does This Mean For Solar Systems Already Installed
If you were one of the early movers who now enjoys the benefit of a fixed feed in tariff, then north facing at 30 degrees tilt is ideal to maximise your savings.
Changing the orientation of an existing solar panel is possible, however when the cost of having the array shifted is considered, it usually makes more financial sense to buy additional panels or battery storage.
Panels do not have to be pointed in just one static direction. A homeowner can buy a device called a tracker that will pivot the panels over the course of the day, like a sunflower, so they always face the sun.
A tracker can raise the output of a panel by 45 per cent. But installing trackers will cost thousands of dollars, require detailed structural engineering, and council approval. For residential houses, trackers rarely make financial sense.
A cheaper way to get the same number of kilowatt hours may be simply to buy a few extra panels and point them in different directions.
If you have solar panels pointing in different directions, it is important that each group of panels is connected to its own Maximum Power Point Tracker within the inverter, otherwise you will get poor performance from your solar system.
Alternatively you can use micro-inverters, which optimise every panel, however these are significantly more expensive than the standard wall mounted inverters.
The Pecan Street Research Institutereport
The Pecan Street Research Institute blew ahole in a lot of theories regarding solar energy production and the directionsolar panels face when it extracted numbers that took supply and demand intoaccount.
What researchers were looking for was the impact that solar energy production had in reducing demand across the power grid.
The research is the first of its kind to evaluate the energy production of solar panels oriented in different directions. Pecan Street analyzed 50 homes in the Austin, TX area. Some had only south-facing panels, others had west-facing panels, and some had both. South-facing panels produced a 54 percent reduction overall, while west-facing solar PV panels produced a 65 percent peak reduction.
Katherine Tweed, Greentech Media
From the standpoint that solar panels produceenergy on demand as its being consumed, the Pecan Street project determinedthat west-facing panels produced 49 percent more energy than south-facingpanels.
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If My Roof Doesnt Face South Will Panels Work For Me
Yes, solar panels could still work for you if your roof doesnt face south! Theres a lot more to solar panel installation than the direction that your roof faces. With the help of experienced solar experts, theres an excellent chance that you can develop a solar panel solution that will work for you.
South Is Best Direction To Maximize Solar Panel Output
In the Northern Hemisphere, where the United States is located, solar panels will achieve maximum possible electricity production when they are facing south.
Thats because, on average, the sun shines directly over the Equator over the year. If youre north of the Equator, facing south towards it will maximize exposure to sunlight. In fact, in all regions north of the Tropic of Cancer – which includes the entire mainland U.S. – the Sun moves across the southern half of the sky all year round.
In other words, solar panels oriented south in the United States will face the sun all year long.
Pictured: The furthest north the suns path travels is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, roughly 23.5° north of the Equator, during the summer solstice . As all of the mainland U.S. is located north of the Tropic of Cancer, the sun shines to the south for us all year-round.
How much power will panels produce on your roof given its direction?
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Which Direction Should Your Solar Panels Face
As you can probably guess, solar panels generate more electricity when they are facing directly at the sun. While some utility-scale solar farms have structures that track the movement of the sun, residential and off-grid systems are generally left at the same orientation all year round.
In many cases, you wont be able to choose which way you mount your panels, as you will be placing solar panels on an existing roof. In this case, it is important to understand how different orientations will affect the output of the panels.
If you have an off-grid or ground-mounted setup, you may be flexible in which way to face your panels. In this case, the ideal direction will depend on where you are located in the world, and what your goals are for your system.
This article will cover both these scenarios.
The orientation of your solar panels can be broken down into two types Azimuth, and Tilt.
Solar Panel Orientation And Elevation:
So weve established that there’s a sweet spot for your solar panel orientation which is directly south and a sweet spot for elevation which is between 30º and 40º. So whats the effect on output the further you go from these optimum conditions?
Well, obviously the further you go from either of the optimum positions the more your output will drop. However the elevation doesnt drop off as much as you might imagine because the sun will still shine on them even in a horizontal position.
However as soon as your panels elevation drops below around 12º from horizontal they wont be able to self-clean themselves quite as well and once they get dirty their output will reduce.
Now that youve got the basics youll be able to look at the table below and see exactly what effect your roof elevation and orientation is likely to have on your solar panels output.
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Does It Make Sense To Install On East And West
For most homeowners, it still makes sense to have panels installed, even if you dont have a south facing roof. While the overall production of an East/West roof will be a little less overall than a roof thats facing completely South, the system is often still a good investment. In addition to the orientation of the roof face, the angle of the roof also comes into play. Typically, having a flatter roof angle on an East/West roof will increase the production of the system.
Depending on the house, having panels on true East and West facing roofs will be anywhere from 8-14% less efficient. As the angle of the roof turns more toward the South, that percentage difference decreases.
On many homes, theyll have some East, West and South facing roof where panels can be placed. By putting some panels on the South and others on the East and West, the difference in production can be minimized even further.
In summary, South is the best for solar, but East and West are still good too.
With the 26% Federal tax credit, utility company rebates, and affordable no-money-down financing, it still makes sense to go solar with an East/West facing roof.
About the Author
Matt is the director of marketing at Simple Solar and is passionate about helping his fellow SW Missourians go solar! Check out more articles and content on the blog or by visiting the Simple Solar Facebook Page!
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What If Your Roof Doesnt Face South
With the exception of the two caveats listed above, your rooftop solar energy system should ideally face south for the best efficiency. Of course, this isnt always possible: many homeowners dont have roofs that face south!
The good news is that this isnt a deal killer. Many homeowners who do not have south-facing roofs had solar panels installed and are saving significantly on their electric bills.
Here are some alternatives for homeowners without south-facing roofs:
Why Angles Matter With Rooftop Solar
Just like other factors that affect production, the financial impact of the slight decreases in solar productivity related to your roofs slope depends on electricity prices in your specific market.
To give you an example, EnergySage compared data from two places and estimated the production levels of solar panels tilted at various angles. What we found was consistent with our investigations into the effects of other variables:
- Regardless of where you live or the tilt of your roof, adopting solar power provides significant savings.
- The angle of your roof actually has less impact on solar panel performance than the direction your solar energy system faces.
- Optimal electricity production occurs when solar panels face south at a tilt equal to 30°. However, even if you lower the tilt of your roof all the way down to 5°, production only decreases by about 10 percent.
* Annual electric bill savings ** Assumes an 80% derate factor, 180-degree azimuth, array tilt ~equal to locations latitude*** Production ratio
Youll notice above that, if you live in New York where electricity is more expensive, decreasing your panels tilt to 5° will lower production by about 10 percent. Although this decreases your optimal annual savings by over $125, you still save nearly $1,090 per year. Because you live in a high cost area, your savings over time will grow even more as electricity prices continue to rise.
What’s The Best Solar Panel Location
If you are looking into having a solar system installed, you likely have so much information rolling around in your head you don’t know what to look at first. From cost to size to placement to energy requirements, there is a huge amount of information to consider and take in, which is why we thought we would help you out a little and get together some information on solar panel location and, more importantly, solar panel orientation. Where you should have your panels installed, and what way should they be facing? These are critical questions to get right to ensure you get the most out of your solar system, so let’s take a look.
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Do They Have To Be Attached To The Roof
The majority of solar panels owners choose to have their panels attached to their roof. This has led to something of an assumption that they have to be placed on the roof. But this is not necessarily the case. Roof-mounted solar panels do have plenty of advantages such as being out of the shade of trees, as well as being protected from heavy wind.
However, free-standing solar panels can also be valuable as they can be placed facing south and at any angle you wish. Alternatively, integrated solutions such as façade and flat-roof solar panels can be used to replace conventional building materials.
If you would like to learn more about solar panels and how to get as much out of them as possible we have created a section with useful video content and FAQs. Alternatively, you can get in contact with us today to talk with our highly experienced team who will be happy to answer any questions you have: or Call: .
Why Wouldnt Everyone Point The Panels West
Some homeowners have panels facing north simply because that is the direction of the roof. Generally you will place the panels flush to your roof in an area that is mostly free from shade.
If either side of a roof is shaded by trees or buildings, youâd obviously choose the other side.
This might be east, north, west or anywhere in-between.
While some solar panel owners are paid time-of-use rates and are compensated by energy retailers in proportion to prices on the wholesale electric grid, many system owners cannot take advantage of the higher value of electricity at peak hours because they are paid a flat rate.
With the tumbling cost of batteries, it is likely that soon the best solution will be to simply cover the whole roof facing whatever direction, store what you need, and enjoys years of minimal energy bills.
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How Electricity Tariffs Affect The Optimal Solar Panel Orientation
Your panel can have different monetary values, so its important to know about the energy produced by a solar panel. If you are always charged the same kilowatt-hour price, your goal should be getting maximum production from solar panels.
However, many electric companies apply time-of-use tariffs, which change throughout the day. The highest kWh prices are normally billed in the afternoon and evening, since that is when the grid faces maximum consumption. There are many factors that increase operating costs, and this leads to higher tariffs:
- Electric companies must bring more power plants online to meet the peak in consumption, including the plants with high generation costs.
- Since power lines and transformers are carrying a high current, they waste more energy as heat emissions.
- Electrical faults are more likely when the grid is burdened, creating a higher risk of blackouts.
Many power companies apply higher electricity prices at times of peak demand to compensate for their higher operating cost. The high kilowatt-hour price also disincentives consumption in homes and businesses, helping unburden on the grid.
Best Solar Panel Direction Overall
South is the best direction for solar panels to face overall. In nearly all cases, homeowners will achieve the highest electric bill savings and a quickest payback period by facing their solar panels south over any other direction.
Having your panels face south improves the economics of solar in the following ways: it maximizes solar output, it maximizes your ability to take advantage of net metering, and it maximizes your ability to utilize battery storage.
We explore each of these reasons in more detail below.
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